Friday, March 11, 2022

Q&A with Sarah Jio



Sarah Jio is the author of the new novel With Love from London. Her many other novels include All the Flowers in Paris, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New York Times and Redbook. She lives in Seattle.


Q: What inspired you to write With Love from London, and how did you create your characters Eloise and Valentina?


A: My husband, Brandon, proposed to me in London on a wintry night in 2017. He took me out to dinner in Notting Hill and then convinced me to visit a small pub nearby. I was tired and wanted to go back to the hotel, but fortunately, I agreed!


When the cab dropped us off on a sleepy street in front of a charming pink building with a bicycle propped up against the front wall, I turned to him and was like, “What is this place? I don’t see a pub!”


When I turned around, he was down on one knee and explained that we were standing in the location of my favorite scene from the movie Love Actually where the guy holds up signs in front of Keira Knightley’s doorway. Brandon had his own signs, and even had the same version of “Silent Night” that was in the movie.


I said yes, of course, and after that I was both gleefully happy and also already thinking about a story that I might set in London someday.


A few years later, I began working on this novel. The characters came to me quickly—Eloise with her secrets and sadness, and Valentina with her quest for understanding and healing. I was excited to set the novel in a bookstore in one of the most charming neighborhoods of London: Primrose Hill.


Q: The Kirkus Review of the book says, “Author Jio has taken a well-worn trope—American woman inherits property and a life in London—and made it her own, full of warmth, love, happiness, and books.” What do you think of that description?


A: I’ve been writing books for many years now, and before that I was a journalist, so I’m used to hearing all ranges of opinions and commentary.


While I’m generally a pretty sensitive soul, I’ve learned to develop thicker skin when it comes to putting my work out there, and I truly believe that not everything I write will resonate with every reader—and that’s okay!


A lot of how we feel about a book, a character, or even an entire genre is based on our own place in the world, trigger points and so much more.


I really appreciated Kirkus’ review (and also Publishers Weekly’s starred review!) of With Love From London as I think that there’s a subset of people who might write off the premise of this novel as merely a “fairytale” when I believe it much more depth.


I loved that the reviewer touched on the word “warmth” because that is exactly what I hoped to create with this book—a cozy place for readers to crawl into and feel all the feels, and the warmth.


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: Yes! It’s a bit strange, but I have this weird writing quirk: I like to begin my new novels by writing the first and the last chapter. For some reason, it’s really helpful and anchoring for me to know how a novel will begin and end. The middle is the hardest part, but the bookends almost write themselves.


While I sometimes tweak a few things, I usually don’t make major changes to how I initially envision a story’s ending, which was the case for With Love From London. As I wrote the book, I loved knowing how everything would turn out, and I crafted each chapter with that goal in mind.


Q: What do you think the novel says about mother-daughter relationships and how complicated they can be?


A: It’s funny, because whenever I write about mothers in my books, my mom always worries that people will think the characters are based on her! The truth is, I had a pretty idyllic childhood and my relationship with my mom is very strong (I call her almost every day!).


But even though there wasn’t a lot of drama in my life as a daughter, I still find mother-daughter stories so fascinating. I have a lot of friends who have experienced estrangement from their moms or have deep-seated wounds from childhood.


I think there’s so much to explore there, especially when you become a mother yourself and learn the big secret that nobody has any idea how to be a perfect parent, and even more, there is no such thing. Most of us are just trying to do our best and figuring it all out as we go.


I think it’s amazing how we better understand our parents—and ourselves—as we age. These are the types of themes that continually fascinate me. I love exploring family dynamics.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: My 12th novel! That feels so crazy to type, and it’s truly a pinch-me moment. I am so blessed and grateful to be able to do what I love so much: tell stories!


My new one is similar (and yet, quite different!) to my past books. Only a handful of people in the world know its title and subject matter, but I can tell you that I am totally transfixed with this one. I can’t wait to share more!


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I’m very active on social media, and share a lot of my life as a mom, wife, and author there. If you or your readers would like to follow along, you can find me on Instagram at or on Facebook at Thank you so much for hosting me here, Deborah!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment